Studio/E co-founder Nate Garvis on the antidote to Angertainment
The political campaign season has passed, and with it, the billions of dollars of skillfully shaped fear-based messaging. Produced by industrialized political machines, its professionals have moved us left and right, but never forward. I call this business of polarization Angertainment.
Angertainment may be seasonal, but the impact goes well beyond the political environment. Our general media landscape — from traditional and mass to personal and digital — is polluted with despair, blame, and righteous anger. Division gets applied to ethnicities, religions, environmental perspectives, sex and sexual orientation, and on and on. And when we post this kind of content to social media, we also become agents of divisive media.
Intolerance has spilled onto the streets as friends “unfriend,” family holidays are turned to strife and college campuses become locations where ideas and speech are anything but free and safe. Most tragically, we have experienced targeted political violence as the infection preys upon those who are triggered into the madness of violence and murder.
Angertainment works because of the base ingredients of insularity and ignorance. We have gravitated toward living, working, and socializing with people who are comfortably similar to ourselves. We’ve added into our daily lives a digital environment that promotes echo chamber thinking, and we’ve created dark corners where we can vent our voices anonymously. We replace individual first names with blunt labels that describe entire groups. It’s easier to attack a label than a real person.
So, what is the antidote to Angertainment?
Go to places where weaponized labels aren’t welcomed. These are places where you show up as a first name, where you connect out of curiosity, and where it’s safe to meet people who might not see the world exactly as you do. If you want to get beyond Angertainment, you have to experience people as people.
Look around and you’ll see plenty of opportunities. In my community of the Twin Cities, there’s the Pollen Network of over 10,000 professionals of all types connecting at events where you leave with excitement, new ideas, and usually a new friend. There’s the nonpartisan Citizens League that engages people of all backgrounds and ideologies into taking active roles in public policymaking. Marnita’s Table creates intentional social interaction by utilizing, amongst a host of designs, the humane setting of the dinner table.
I’ve been fortunate to produce such a place with my friend Tom Wiese called Studio/E. We gather a diverse community of individuals and organizations into a practice of Exploratory Leadership where ideas are pushed into more possibility. Our world is changing dramatically, rapidly, and constantly, and there are real limits on what you can predict and plan for using traditional methods. In the face of all of this uncertainty, Studio/E teaches people how to create rather than simply react. A diverse learning community underpins it all because if you want to learn and grow you need to meet people with different knowledge and experiences.
In particular, I’d like to introduce you to a group within the larger Studio/E community called ManyOne. For those who are fatigued by the disease of Angertainment, you may find hope and optimism in these individuals. ManyOne scholars are state legislators, republican and democrat equally. Spanning the spectrum of liberal to conservative, our ManyOne members spend days with successful people who see them as more than just elected officials. At Studio/E, they get to be a first name, just like every single one of our members. These legislators remain democrats and republicans, engaging in important debates and disagreements. But thankfully, they aren’t so disagreeable as they wrestle with important ideas. They are moving beyond Angertainment.
If these politicians can meet beyond the political label and connect as individuals, think of the possibilities when we all shed more of those labels that are designed to pull us apart. I encourage you to seek out those places where first names hang out. It’s time to move beyond manufactured anger that drives us left and right, and navigate toward a better direction: forward.